Call to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from Istanbul

June 2013

Valuable members of the IOC;

This is a call from two human rights organizations, Urban Movements Istanbul / HIC (Habitat International Coalition)
and People’s Houses on behalf the
citizens of Istanbul from all ages, social and political backgrounds,
associations, ideologies and beliefs.

From May 28th to June 15th,
Istanbulites had been attacked 5 times, each one more brutal than the former, by
a riot police commanded by a government
totally unaware of the concepts of conscience and humanity. The protesters who peacefully occuppied Gezi Park, the largest public
park around Taksim Square,
 against its demolishment
for a renewal project witnessed a
cruelty beyond comprehension for even war time situations. The attacks have terrified the whole city while tourists, non-protestors
(some of whom were also injured) and vulnerable groups such as children,
elderly and the sick and disabled were adversely affected. The whole city
suffocated under mass clouds of gas.
gas canisters were thrown by the police into enclosed spaces such as subway
stations, restaurants, cafes, and even inside hospitals and houses where people
escaped and took refuge and helicopters also threw gas bombs from the air.
International human rights norms and
humanitarian law on war time conditions were grossly violated.

Starting from the first attack on the 28th the
use of force has been unproportional with excessive utilization of tear gas and
pepper gas bombs over limits and used directly towards the face of whoever is
around ( According to the papers, 130,000 gas cartridges were consumed in 20
); rubber
bullets and water cannons were also used. The water sprayed by the cannons
contained an unknown chemical substance of acidic nature, many people with
rashes and itches, skin allergies and open skin lesions were observed among the
Rubber bullets were utilized frequently; moreover, due
to the deliberate use of canisters by the police to target and hit armless
people, thousands were injured. 12 people lost their eyes during
demonstrations. There are 4 deaths up to
now yet more are expected. 2 fatally injured were put to sleep. The protests
have spread to the other cities and there are nearly 10,000 people injured
throughout Turkey, 23 of which are fatal.

Negotiations between the representatives of the protestors and PM
had started on the 13th and as a sign of reconciliation, some of the tents in
the park were removed by the protestors. Unexpectedly, the last intervention took place on the 15th
as the riot police started a very hard attack on Gezi Park against
the peaceful crowd which had festively gathered all
day long at the Park, believing in the negotiations. As done previously, but
the most brutally of all, use of
gas, water cannons, rubber bullets and blast bombs were used over accepted
limits. There were hundreds of people injured.
All the hotels around Taksim where helpless crowds fled were bombed several
The wounded who
were brought into the makeshift infirmary at the nearby Divan Hotel were re-bombed
countless times.
German Green Part Deputy Claudia Roth was in
Divan Hotel when the hotel was attacked

The right to peaceful assembly and to demonstration, the
right to expression and to freedom of opinion and most important of all the
right to life have been violated by the government while none of the
perpetrators have been convicted so far. The police chief and the governor of
Istanbul are still at their posts safe and sound! On the other hand, it is very ironic that lawyers
using their right to protest in solidarity for Gezi were taken under custody.

While the
government has openly overruled all norms of human rights in front of the whole
world, its spokespeople and the governor of Istanbul has chosen to address the
national and international public in a reckless manner, creating stories about
“marginal groups” and “vandalism”. Never
before have dignity and pride been so brutally vandalized! 

Valuable members of the IOC, the ideals of Olympic
Games rest on friendship, peace, truth, and democratic values and freedoms. We
are sending you reports of international NGOs and organizations and some of the
hundreds of videos documenting the unproportional use of force by the police;
these are material evidences of the brutality and are more than enough proof of
how the government violates the ideals of Olympics. Against all these, keeping Istanbul
on the list of applicants will be tantamount to pepper gassing these ideals.
Having Istanbul on the list will mean bombing Olympic values.

Last but not the least if Istanbul becomes the host
city, it is very evident from this experience how any protest during the Games
will be approached by the government. Even the smallest, the most minute, the
most peaceful protest, demonstration or rally bears the potential of igniting
an explosion under such an antidemocratic rule as has been experienced.
Considering the sudden top-down decision
making process of the government in conjunction with urban transformation
projects and considering that these projects are implemented without any
consultation with the local communities and citizens to be impacted, it is more
than probable that infrastructures for Olympics will bring about another wave
of protests. Gezi protests became nationwide not because of Gezi park
demolition but because thousands voiced their anger against urban
transformation project that engendered demolitions, forced evictions and also against
all urbancide / ecocide projects. 4 million trees on the Black Sea coast are
being cut down to open space for the 3rd Bridge, the environmental
impacts of the Canal might lead to a natural disaster not only for Istanbul and
Turkey but for neighbouring countries as well. Olympics will be exploited by
the government to construct legitimacy for these and other ‘’crazy’’ projects
of the PM. Hence, one does not need to be a fortune teller to see what will
happen in case Istanbul becomes the host city; what has happened provides
suffice evidence to make a projection to the future. Please do not become
accomplices of these human rights violations and brutalities but take the
initiative and get Istanbul out of the List 2020.

We, as Istanbulites whose lives were threatened (and
whose right to demonstration and to freedom of expression are still under
threat due to random custodies and threats against those participating in
resistance and those using twitter and other social media) request the IOC to
take Istanbul out of the list of cities for Olympics 2020 immediately in order
to reclaim the honour of Olympic ideals. We would like to point out that after
what has been experienced by Istanbulites, keeping Istanbul as a potential host
city means taking sides with an atrocious government that disgraces Olympic
ideals and democratic values.

                                               Urban Movements / HIC                                       People’s Houses


Human Rights Watch:

Amnesty International:

UN-OHCHR Press Briefing Notes (2 times):


EU Parliament:

VIDEOS/ PHOTOS/ ARTICLES (The man trying to persuade the
police to stop is opposition deputy Ilhan Cihaner)

* To download
this call in pdf format, click here.